Editor's note: This is Part 2 of two columns about
the military's investigation of UFOs over Fort Hood in the late 1940s.
See Part 1
construction complete, the Army began stockpiling its growing nuclear
arsenal at Camp Hood. While military brass in Killeen
and at the Pentagon assessed the big picture of the world scene, rank
and file GIs stationed at the secret Texas site had only the protection
of the underground facility’s perimeter to worry about. For them,
that job amounted to routine peacetime soldiering -- at least until
March 6, 1949.
At 8:20 p.m., a sergeant and a private saw something in the sky they
had no means to challenge: An oblong, blue-white object moving southward
in the airspace over the supposedly impenetrable A-bomb facility.
Other patrol teams reported seeing something similar.
After midnight, a military policeman reported that at 1:30 a.m. on
March 7, an orange-colored, teardrop-shaped object dropped from the
sky right in front of him. Visible only a few seconds, the thing disappeared.
Other soldiers said they saw it, too.
At 2 a.m. on March 8, infantrymen located a half-mile apart reported
unknown lights in the sky over the bomb storage facility. One soldier
said he saw a whitish light, and another GI described a lemon-shaped,
yellowish-red light that appeared to be in level flight across the
Given the ultra-sensitivity of the site, the Army quickly opened an
investigation. Federal authorities in the Southwest already had their
figurative antenna up due to a series of unexplained aerial sightings
around Los Alamos, NM, that had begun in mid-December 1948. On Jan.
31, 1949, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San
Antonio office sent a one-page memo to Director J. Edgar Hoover
in Washington. The agent said representatives of Army intelligence
(G-2), Office of Naval Intelligence, the Air Force’s Office of Special
Investigation, and the FBI had been conducting weekly intelligence
conferences and had recently discussed “the matter of ‘unidentified
aircraft’...otherwise known as... ‘flying saucers’...” During the
previous two months, the SAC told Hoover, “various sightings of unexplained
phenomena” had been occurring at Los Alamos. The FBI man concluded:
“Up to this time little concrete information has been obtained.”
A week after the Camp Hood sightings, an Army G-2 officer readied
an experiment he assumed would prove the soldiers who reported the
lights had merely been seeing flares connected to routine nighttime
maneuvers at the post.
The assistant G-2 for the 2nd Armored Division intended to set off
a series of flares to support his hypothesis. He stationed artillery
observers at key points to report by radio what the flares looked
like from various distances and angles. But before the experiment
began, at 7:52 p.m. on March 17, the observers reported a series of
white, red, and green lights that appeared to be flying in straight
lines. No one had shot any flares yet. The captain reported the incident,
which included seven separate sightings, and continued with more witness
Meanwhile, the mysterious sightings over the post continued.
While on patrol at 11:50 p.m. on March 31, a lieutenant observed what
he described as a reddish-white fireball pass over the airstrip adjacent
to the weapons storage site. When he used his field telephone to report
the sighting, something caused interference on the frequency.
G-2 had been sending its reports on the unknown aerial activity at
Killeen Base to the Air Force, but that branch of the military was
preoccupied with the situation at Los Alamos. When the Army heard
nothing back from the Air Force, it assumed its investigators had
no interest in the Camp Hood situation.
But when the sightings above the military post continued—climaxed
by virtually the entire garrison seeing a formation of lights pass
overhead during retreat—the base commander decided to take decisive
action. The general’s staff quickly developed a plan: Special four-man
squads equipped with sighting apparatuses designed for artillery fire
control would be positioned at selected points affording the best
view across the secret facility. Operating on a special radio frequency,
if a team saw an aerial anomaly, it would transmit the object’s azimuth
angle and elevation to a command post. If multiple teams saw the object,
the data could be triangulated for a fairly accurate reading of the
object’s direction and speed.
As preparation for the exercise continued, so did the sightings. But
by late summer, the Army had a far more tangible threat to worry about
other than mysterious lights in the night sky over Camp Hood or New
Mexico. On Aug. 29, 1949, the Soviet Union exploded an atomic bomb.
The United States no longer enjoyed a nuclear monopoly.
A shocked citizenry read about the successful Russian nuclear test
in their newspapers or heard about it on radio or television, but
years would go by before the American public got any inkling that
something unusual had been happening at domestic military instillations
in Texas and New Mexico. In fact, the details of what happened at
Camp Hood that spring did not surface publicly until 1956, when former
Air Force Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt published his now classic book,
The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. Even then, Ruppelt would
only say that the perplexing rash of UFO sightings in the spring of
1949 had occurred at “a highly secret area that can’t be named.”
Ruppelt said that while the description of the lights varied, “the
majority of the observers reported a V formation of three lights.”
The Army's investigation plan was written as a field order, signed
by the right people, and mimeographed for distribution to the appropriate
“Since the Air Force had the prime responsibility for the UFO investigation,”
Ruppelt wrote, “it was decided that the plan should be quickly coordinated
with the Air Force, so a copy was rushed to them. Time was critical...Everything
was ready to roll the minute the Air Force said ‘Go.’”
But for reasons Ruppelt never learned, the Air Force nixed the Army’s
Camp Hood UFO plan.
Judging from reports later released under the Federal Freedom of Information
Act, the post commander at Hood decided to proceed with a coordinated
UFO tracking effort despite the lack of Air Force buy-in. On the night
May 6, two days after the system had been activated, artillery observers
spotted an unidentified aerial object over the camp. At 7:40 p.m.
the following day, observers tracked another UFO over the base. One
officer noted a diamond-shaped object at 1,000 feet, moving northwest.
The bright white light remained visible 57 and was estimated as traveling
at 1,300 miles an hour. On May 8, three observers recorded another
sighting, this one beginning at 10:08 p.m. and continuing for nine
minutes. Severe radio interference occurred until the object was no
longer visible. The final recorded sighting came at 9:05 p.m. on June
Twenty years after the wave of Fort Hood UFO sightings, the Army shut
down Killeen Base and removed all nuclear weapons. The former Q Area
is now known as West Fort Hood and the former Gray Air Force Base
is now operated by the Army.
What caused the rash of mysterious sightings above the then top secret
facility has never been explained.
< See Part
© Mike Cox
- April 14, 2016 Column
See WWII | UFO
Related Topics: Columns
| Texas Towns | Texas
Counties | Texas